Hendrik Groen in his first book - 2017's The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old. The follow up to that book is On The Bright Side: The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 85 Years Old.
Hendrik resides in a nursing home in Amsterdam. We met many residents in the first book, but the focus is on the residents of the Old But Not Dead Club.
On the Bright Side is told in a series of journal entries over the course of a year. I love epistolary novels - they're quite intimate, letting us into the private world of a character. Through Hendrik's diary entries, we experience the highs and lows of living in a senior's care facility - the conflicts, the friendships, the day to day interactions, the worries, some shenanigans, memories, regrets, hopes and more. And though it's been done before - the us vs. them of management vs. seniors will have the reader cheering for the senior's 'team'.
Hendrik is such a wonderful character - he's kind and thoughtful, has a wry sense of humor and is determined to enjoy what time is left to him. The supporting cast is just as well drawn. The irreverent Evert is a personal favourite of mine.
On the Bright side explores the frailty and worries of being eighty five. But it also celebrates the joys of the simpler things in life - most importantly friendships. But, yes, you may need a tissue or two.
Hendrik's observations will perhaps encourage readers to stop and listen a little more carefully to those nearing the end of their lives. And spend time with them. Perhaps they'll also envision what they want their own later years to look like. While this novel is a picture of aging in the Netherlands, the emotions and thoughts expressed are universal. Read an excerpt of On the Bright Side. And I'll be watching for Hendrik's next diary.